As everyone knows, Friday marked the end of Infrastructure Week, a week during which the Trump administration did little but hammer on the importance of upgrading America’s aging infrastructure. (If you are reading this in the future, this is a joke.)
We were reminded of the challenges America’s infrastructure faces earlier this year when the American Road and Transportation Builders Association released its annual report documenting the 56,000 structurally deficient bridges in the United States. In light of Infrastructure Week, then, we decided to make that problem tangible.
The ARTBA designates a bridge as structurally deficient if it scores a 4 or lower (on a 0-to-9 scale) in any of the Federal Highway Administration’s ratings. The FHA evaluates five aspects of bridges: the deck (road surface), superstructure, substructure, channel (the flow of water under the bridge) and, if applicable, culvert (an enclosed transport for water under a bridge). What is a 4 in, say, channel? Per the FHA’s guidelines, a bridge gets a 4 if “bank and embankment protection is severely undermined” or “river control devices have severe damage” or “large deposits of debris are in the channel.”
Now the scary image, courtesy of the mapping experts at Mapzen. Here are the bridges that meet that ARTBA standard of being structurally deficient.
Curious if there are any bridges near you that meet that standard? Use this handy tool to see. (If you want to check your current location, choose “FIND ME” and click the “accept” button when the browser asks to use your location. We don’t do anything with that information besides update the map, obviously.)
But again thanks to Mapzen, we can do one better. Curious if your route to or from work goes over a structurally deficient bridge? Try the routing tool below, which compares routes using and avoiding deficient bridges. Most deficient bridges, happily, aren’t on major transit routes, so there may be no difference.
For an example of where a difference exists, try these two Zip codes in Pittsburgh: 15235 and 15215.
Just because a bridge is structurally deficient doesn’t mean that it’s in imminent danger of collapse, of course. It does happen. In 2007, a bridge in Minneapolis collapsed during rush hour, killing 13 people. The year of its collapse, the bridge’s superstructure rating was a 4.
Clearly, American infrastructure could use an upgrade. That’s why Infrastructure Week is so valuable.
Would be so valuable.